New Zealand will hold a binding referendum on the legalisation of cannabis for personal use along with its next election in 2020, the government announced on Tuesday.
“There is a bit of detail still to work through, but we are telling the electoral commission that’s when it’s going to be,” Justice Minister Andrew Little told media on Tuesday in Wellington.
The referendum on recreational cannabis use on or before the 2020 election was part of the supply agreement the Green Party negotiated with Labour.
“At present, we know illicit cannabis use occurs throughout the country, without any harm-reduction measures nor support,” Green Party drug law reform spokesperson Chloe Swarbrick said in a statement.
“There’s no quality control, exacerbating risks to health, and the drug is sold by gangs, fuelling violence and associated criminality in our communities,” she added.
A spokesperson for the #makeitlegal campaign welcomed the announcement. “Having the referendum at the election will maximise turnout, which is good because we know from polls over a number of years that a majority of New Zealanders support cannabis law reform,” Manager Sandra Murray said in a statement.
Last week the New Zealand government passed legislation to legalise the use of medicinal cannabis and created a statutory defence for people eligible to use illicit cannabis for palliative care without fear of prosecution.